The world was perfect before Adam sinned – no pain, no disease, no death. Then Adam wrecked God's paradise by eating forbidden fruit, and ever since the earth has been under God's curse as punishment for that sin.
Everyone is a descendant from Adam and has inherited Adam's sin and guilt (known as 'original sin'). Every human being of all times and places is born guilty of that sin.
The penalty for Adam's sin is the harshest possible torment, burning in hell forever without being able to die. Everyone will be sent to hell after bodily resurrection and judgment except those who accepted Jesus Christ as Savior.
If one man could thwart God's plan, God cannot be all-wise and all-powerful. It seems like lack of foresight and defective design.
It is certainly not justice to punish people for the offense of another person at another time and place for which they had no part or knowledge, especially those who never even heard of Jesus.
Burning forever is the worst kind of torture conceivable. It may be loving to offer some people a means of salvation, but it certainly is not loving to withhold knowledge the offer from most people who have ever lived.
The earth had been billions of years in the making. Then God comes! And starts establishing personal relationships with humans!!
He chose one man – Adam – to make the first move from physical life to spiritual life. Man had never encountered God before, and now a whole new quality and dimension was added to human life.
People outside the Garden of Eden lived and died completely unaware of what was happening inside the Garden. As it is even to this day, for reasons we don't understand, God chooses to reveal himself to some people but not to others, mostly a consequence of historical time and geographical place (see 1.6).
The story of the Garden of Eden – man's first encounter with God – is told in Genesis 2:8 - 3:24.
'The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the Garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.' (Genesis 2:15-17).
The Garden of Eden is both a time and a place.
According to Bible genealogy (see 1.3.3), and general agreement among Bible scholars, the time was approximately 4000 BC.
The Bible says that the Garden of Eden was at or near the headwaters of four named rivers. Even though the names of two of the rivers have changed and are now impossible to identify precisely, it appears that this garden (special place) was in Iraq (formerly Mesopotamia, known as the cradle of civilization) between the Tigris and Euphrates, near the Persian Gulf.
The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden raises some of the most fundamental and controversial issues of the Christian faith, including age of earth, first human, cause of death, original sin and people burning in hell forever.
For us today, the doctrinal issues devived from the story are more important than details of the story itself.
These issues – and more – are covered in the first four topics of this site, complete with Bible studies which display all relevant Bible passages bearing on each subject, so you can read and decide for yourself what you believe the Bible teaches.
Most Bible studies elsewhere use the fill-in-the-blanks method to affirm whatever theology and wording the author or group leader desires, in order to reinforce what most people in the group already believe and to dispel conflicting interpretations.
Thinkers Bible Studies here use the Socratic method of asking any and all hard questions, gathering important relevant facts, and searching in the Bible for answers that are intellectually honest and align with real life experience.
Some conclusions here may be upsetting to some traditional Christians who have been taught from childhood never to question church doctrines.
This site is not affiliated with any religious group and has no statement of faith to push people into. Each reader here is simply encouraged to study – really study – what the Bible says and to be able to converse intelligently and confidently about spiritual matters with other people.
The story of Adam and Eve raises an important theological question: Does God ever hold a person guilty for the sins of another?
How we answer that question here sets the pattern for how we understand sin and eternal life in all parts the Bible.
A majority of Christians – Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox – have been taught that the guilt for Adam's sin has been placed on every human being ... that everyone is born with this original sin ... and that, without salvation through Jesus Christ, everyone will burn in hell forever, all because Adam sinned by eating forbidden fruit.
This is also known as 'inherited sin' or 'transmitted sin.'
None of these terms appear anywhere in the Bible.
THE BIBLE INTERPRETATION ON THIS SITE regarding sin is that everyone has a sin nature but NOT original sin ... we are NOT guilty for Adam's sin ... we are guilty only for our own sins. See 1.4.3 to see how this interpretation comes from deep Bible study.
Many people over-reach with these additional 'proof-texts' to support the concept of original sin:
Jesus did not teach that everyone bears the guilt of Adam's sin and consequently is destined to hell because of it.
There is no record in the Bible of Jesus ever even mentioning Adam's name. If a doctrine as foundational as this were true, certainly Jesus would have said something about it.
Jesus' teaching was all about our own choices and our own sin. He never said we get sin or guilt from another person. The doctrine of original sin didn't come from Jesus but from theologians hundreds of years after Jesus' death and resurrection.
The concept of original sin is derived primarily from a few verses written by the Apostle Paul in the fifth chapter of Romans. TAP to see a deep study of that scripture.
The Bible teaches clearly that we have a sin nature (Romans 7:15-18), but that's not the same as saying we have original sin.
Everyone sins, individually, because of our inherent sin nature ... our propensity to sin ... becoming our own god.
Why do we have a sin nature? Because God gave us free will to obey or disobey. Free will would be meaningless – not free will at all – unless we sometimes exercise it in the wrong way.
Why do we have free will? Because God loves us and desires a reciprocal relationship with humans, his crowning creation, made in his image. Real love is impossible without free will.
These topics, and more, are explored in other sections of this site.
The human condition, like the condition of everything else in God's creation, is that we eventually die. Death is not a design flaw or mistake. God designed everything to die, a practical requirement for continuous growth and change.
There is ample evidence that the cycle of life-and-death was functioning in the world long before 4000 BC, the time the Bible says sin first entered the world 'through' Adam' (not 'because' of Adam;' see 1.4.3 for study of Romans 5). There been death on earth since the beginning of time.
There was death on earth before sin, so sin cannot be the cause of death (see 1.3).
Most Christians believe that sin is the cause of death because that is what they have always been told, by tradition, not because of their own Bible study.
Romans 5:12, the principle verse quoted for this view, states: '...just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men ...'
The verse does not say that Adam's sin caused death in the world. It simply says that, when Adam sinned – sequence, not cause – death passed (and continues to pass) to all men. Now there is something new and different: death through sin. The verse implies that death was already occurring – see original Hebrew below – but beginning with the first sin, death for humans takes a new path.
In other words, sin has intervened in the life-and-death process ever since man received and violated the first law from God. Instead of simply dying – like all other creatures in God's creation – man now goes through sin (including resurrection, judgment and punishment) before eternal death.
The good news – the 'gospel' – is that there is one exception. Instead of going through sin to eternal death, an alternate way is going through Jesus to eternal life.
This is explained in detail in the deep study of Romans 5 (see 1.4.3) ... in the study of death before Adam (see 1.3.2) ... and in other sections of this site.
Jesus and the New Testament writers spoke often about 'eternal life.' It is the central theme of the Bible.
To connote the opposite of eternal life, traditional Christians often use the term 'spiritual death,' a term that is an oxymoron to everyone else. It is an invented term, not in the Bible.
'Spiritual death' is usually a polite way of saying burn in hell forever. People who use the term seem to be saying that, after bodily resurrection and judgment, death doesn't really mean death but really means living forever, in torture, unable to die. The language is contrary both to normal usage and to the character of God.
Here are some problems with the common interpretation. Doesn't communicate. Like a slogan.
Should interpret the words for what they mean.
God said to Adam: 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.' (Genesis 2:16-17)
How we interpret 'die' in the story of Adam and Eve sets the pattern for how we interpret death and eternal life in other parts of the Bible.
THE INTERPRETATION ON THIS SITE is that 'die' means simply what it says: final end of existence (after physical death, resurrection, judgment and punishment). No body. No consciousness. Nothing. Eternal death. No longer any opportunity for eternal life.
The only exception to eternal death is eternal life, offered through Jesus.
People who don't choose eternal life will die in hell. Not live forever in hell, but die in hell. Duration and severity in hell depends upon each person's sin and judgment. Then eternal death.
This is not what most traditional Christians have been taught, but it becomes clear from careful Bible study. See 3.5.1 for a Bible study showing every passage of scripture that speaks directly about death and hell.
When people say that everyone inherits the guilt of Adam's sin, it raises questions about how they think people will be punished for his sin.
Most traditional Christians say that people will burn in hell forever if they die without having accepted Jesus Christ as Savior.
Even people who never heard of Jesus? Burn forever?
Most traditional Christians have never done a Bible study to get answers for themselves.
TAP below to see all relevant verses.